In 1954, 12-year-old Cassius Clay rode his bike to a community event in his Louisville neighborhood. They were giving out free popcorn and candy. But when he left the Columbia Auditorium, his red-and-white Schwinn was gone; it had been stolen. A passerby suggested that he talk to Joe Martin, a police officer who operated a boxing gym in the basement of the auditorium in his spare time. With angry tears in his eyes, Cassius told Martin, “If I find the guy who took my bike, I’m gonna whup him.” The boxing trainer responded, “Do you know how to fight? You should know how to fight if you’re going to whup somebody.” On that day, the boy who would become Muhammad Ali started down the path to boxing superstardom.
A world title 10 years later:
- Just six weeks after beginning boxing lessons at Martin’s gym, Clay won his first bout in a split decision.
- After graduating from high school, the 18-year-old fighter won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
- In 1964, at age 22, Clay shocked the sports world by defeating world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Fifty years later, an anonymous buyer bought the gloves he used in that fight for $836,000 USD -- more than the $630,000 USD Clay earned for his TKO victory.